3 ways for Asean and China to achieve even closer economic cooperation: Chan Chun Sing

A truck carrying a container at a logistics center in Tianjin, China, on Dec 12, 2019. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Adopting a long view, building an open and inclusive architecture, and fostering greater interoperability are some possible ways for Asean and China to achieve even tighter economic linkages, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing on Monday (July 12).

He was delivering the closing address for the FutureChina Global Forum, a two-day event bringing together government and business leaders on a range of China-related issues.

The former minister for trade and industry noted that China, as a key engine of global economic growth today, is looking to secure its global supply and value chains and networks, as well as boost resilience through its dual circulation strategy.

The plan, highlighted by President Xi Jinping in May last year, aims to spur both domestic self-sufficiency and foreign investment.

Asean, on the other hand, is also working on diversifying its sources of growth, markets and supply chains.

In order to capitalise on such an environment where both parties are looking for new growth areas, and deepen integration, the first consideration is to think long-term, said Mr Chan.

"Countries will look towards trusted partners, in a world of flux and uncertainty, to secure their intellectual property (IP) and supply chains," he added.

"They will look for partners who can invest in them for the long term and have a vested interest in mutual success.

"These will be partners who adopt a 'prosper thy neighbour' policy, rather than those who extract or exact the maximum short-term interest for themselves."

Next, countries - including Asean member states - will want a diverse portfolio of partnerships to be more competitive, as the competition is not local and not regional, but global.

"To this end, Singapore looks forward to the timely ratification and entry into force of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership," said Mr Chan, referring to the trade pact signed in November last year.

The agreement brings together the 10 Asean countries, as well as Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, to form the world's largest trade bloc, covering around 30 per cent of the world's population and gross domestic product.

Third, countries need to be able to work with one another easily, efficiently and effectively - not just in terms of "hardware" but in rules, regulations, and data flows, said Mr Chan.

This means that going forward, digital economy agreements and common standards in the likes of IP protection will be key enablers.

In a complex world where linear trajectories of growth are no longer a given, bilateral and multilateral partnerships will have to be underpinned by consistent efforts to find new areas of growth, said the minister.

"Therein lies our collective work as a region. I am confident that Asean and China will be able to find common ground in our priorities - both current and new - and to forge a fruitful and mutually beneficial partnership going forward."

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